Although many plants take weeks or months to mature from germination to harvest, you can eat some seeds shortly after they sprout as a nutritious and tasty treat. This lesson provides details for growing edible sprouts.
- paper towels
- sprouter (commercial or home-made)
There are many types of seeds to sprout and eat. Be sure the seeds you purchase are specifically intended for consumption and have not been treated chemically (e.g., with a fungicide to prevent rotting at planting time). Excellent seeds for sprouting include: alfalfa, barley, broccoli, buckwheat, celery, dill, fenugreek, lentil, lettuce, mung bean, pumpkin, radish, sunflower, and wheat.
Laying the Groundwork
Talk about the different parts of a plant. Ask the children to brainstorm and describe the edible parts of a variety of different plants. Here are a few common examples to get you started:
Roots - carrots and radish
Stems - asparagus and garlic
Leaves - lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and parsley
Flowers - broccoli and cauliflower
Fruit - apples, avocados, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, and tomatoes
Seeds - corn and peas
Sometimes we eat more than one plant part at a time. Ask students if they can think of an example. If there are no suggestions, ask, Has anyone ever eaten sprouts? Sprouts are the roots and sometimes small shoots from a young seedling.
As a class, explore edible sprouts. Invite students to research the options, select a few varieties to try, and find sources. Obtain the seeds and sprout them, using either a homemade device or a commercial sprouter. Here are two homemade methods to try:
Paper Towel: Sprinkle some seeds on a single layer of damp paper towel. Fold the paper towel in half, wrap it in plastic so it stays moist, and set it in a warm location (70 degrees F is ideal) out of direct sunlight. Check it every day, and when the seeds sprout (usually in three days or so) peel them off the towel right away, rinse them, and see how they taste.
Wide-Mouth Jar: To grow larger sprouts, you will need a slightly more elaborate setup. You can use a commercial seed-sprouting kit, or try using a wide-mouthed jar covered with nylon, plastic mesh, or cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band. Special screens to fit standard canning jars are also available, usually in health food stores. If you grow the sprouts in a bright location, they will be green. When grown in the dark, they are pale and may be less flavorful.
To begin, soak a tablespoon of seeds in water overnight. Drain the seeds in the morning, and then rinse them twice in cool water, draining excess water through the jar's screen after each rinsing. Repeat the rinsing and draining twice a day, morning and evening, to keep the seeds fresh. Older children can do this reliably, but younger children may need help, especially if the jar is glass.
The seeds should sprout in a few days and can remain in the jar for about four more days, according to your taste (after that they start to turn bitter). Rinse the sprouts daily while they're in the jar. Children are often more sensitive to bitterness than adults, so you may prefer to sprout just mild-flavored mung beans and alfalfa.
Before tasting your sprouts rinse them carefully. If you want, you can rinse them enough times to separate out most of the hulls before eating the sprouts, but this isn't necessary. Store any leftovers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.
Research nutritional information for the sprouts you grew. What benefits do you get from including sprouts in your diet?
- Check out additional sprouting ideas in Sprouting Off
- Search for fun sprout recipes and create a cookbook with instructions for starting sprouts at home.